Ado Vabbe. Wunderbar
Kumu Art Musuem, Tallinn
August 28, 2020 – February 21, 2021
From 28 August, Kumu Art Museum will host Ado Vabbe: Wunderbar, the largest ever exhibition of the works of Ado Vabbe (1892-1961), who is one of the most intriguing names in Estonian art history and a forerunner of avant-garde art. The exhibition introduces the different periods and the central motifs of the artist’s 50-year-long professional career.
Vabbe’s drawings, paintings and prints are divided into six sub-themes that highlight the artist’s early abstract oeuvre, with its playful Indian ink drawings, colourful characters from commedia dell’arte, sun-drenched recollections from his trips south, nuanced sketches of everyday life and woman as a source of lust and dreams. Preparations for an extensive exhibition of Ado Vabbe’s works have been going on for years. In addition to drawings and watercolours, the artist also made numerous oil paintings on paper and the conservation of these works has posed a real challenge to both painting and paper restorers. These are now once again ready for exhibition. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated sweeping monograph on Ado Vabbe, which was the last research project of the recently deceased art historian Tiiu Talvistu (1955-2020). The presentation of the book and a guided tour of the exhibition by the curator, Mary-Ann Talvistu, will take place on 18 September. Other public events will also take place during the run of the exhibition.
Ado (Adolf Georg) Vabbe was born in 1892 in Tapa, but the family soon moved to Rakvere and then to Narva. The journey of becoming an artist, which started in the border town of Narva, first led Vabbe to Riga and then to Munich, one of the largest art centres of Europe. Of his following journeys abroad, he cherished most the 1914 memories of Italy, which influenced him throughout his life and continuously found their way into his paintings, drawings and prints. Vabbe is mainly known through the avant-garde oeuvre of his youth, which was constantly transforming and was raised to the pinnacle of the still developing Estonian art life of the 1920s by the members of the literary movement Siuru, for whom Vabbe illustrated numerous books.
“Childhood and the bright and eventful environment of his studies shaped Vabbe into a creator with an international world-view who could flexibly move through the influences of various art trends without being encapsulated by narrow and nationalist themes”, says Mary-Ann Talvistu, the curator of the exhibition. “After the birth of the Republic of Estonia, Vabbe associated himself with the Pallas Art School and was a legendary teacher until the Soviet era, when he was removed from his position due to accusations of introducing formalism into Estonia. He taught many artists who were later considered luminaries of Estonian art, including Karin Luts, Karl Pärsimägi, Elmar Kits and Endel Kõks”, Talvistu says about Vabbe’s role in Estonian art history.